Squash Mad

Marwan ElShorbagy meets big brother Mohamed in Canary Wharf semi-finals

Nuts about squash: Daryl Selby tries an unorthodox shot against Marwan ElShorbagy

It’s an Egyptian take-over at Canary Wharf
By ALAN THATCHER at the East Wintergarden

 

Marwan ElShorbagy scraped past England’s Daryl Selby to book his place in the semi-finals of the Canary Wharf Classic – and immediately said how relieved he was to be back playing “proper squash” with a return to best of five scoring tomorrow when he takes to the court against his big brother Mohamed or Sim Rosner.

Marwan withstood a spirited fightback from Selby to win the third game 11-9. Selby had led 7-6 but tinned two glorious openings. Instead of leading 9-6, he was 8-7 down and the momentum stayed with the Egyptian in a physical finale that included a service box clash in which Selby found himself shoved into the side wall.

ElShorbagy was awarded a stroke but the two players exchanged some heated words before play resumed.

After the match, ElShorbagy said: “It was a tough match today against Daryl. He played really well.

“He had a very clever tactic today against me and all credit to him. He’s been playing really well, he’s been pushing hard and this match could have gone either way.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to play anymore best of three matches any more. From tomorrow, we are going to play proper squash matches finally.

“Hopefully this is the last time we play best of three matches. Best of five is the way we always played it. With the best of three, you are definitely taking the physicality off the sport. Like I said, I’m just happy I do not have to play BO3 matches in this tournament any more.

“Daryl’s 35 and I’ve got so much respect for him. I grew up watching him and have learned so much from him. Every time I go on court with him I try to enjoy it as much as I can. He’s a great player and I would really like to play him once again.”

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Marwan’s big brother Mohamed produced a confident display to beat No.6 seed Simon Rösner from Germany. Rösner has been in fine form this season and after a close first game ElShorbagy dominated the second.

He wowed the crowd with a fantastic crosscourt slam kill into the left-wall nick and generally strutted round the court, striking the ball with absolute authority as Rösner tried valiantly to stay in the game.

Mohamed said: “I think it’s the 12th time Simon and I have played on Tour. Our hardest one was when we played best of three in Dubai last May, so I was kind of happy to get the chance to play him in another best of three because I know how dangerous he is in a best of three.

“I feel I prepared a bit better than the last time we played in Dubai. I had a game plan, I felt like I was sharp to play it and I’m really happy to finish in two games.

“I’m really happy to be in the semis. I’ve never reached the final here before so I would love to play a final here. I don’t think an Egyptian has won this tournament before so I would love to be the first one to do it.

“It’s always exciting for me to be back playing here, I love it here and I look forward to playing another match here.

“James is playing well, Ryan is playing well and he beat me in the ToC so it would be nice to have four Egyptians but you never know. It’s always special playing my brother. We played in the final of Chicago, in the final of the Worlds so we’ve been playing quite a lot recently and I look forward to having another good battle with him.

“I think we both give something unique to the sport to have two brothers playing each other on big stages and I hope that one day we can be one and two in the world. That’s our goal and I hope we can do that one day.”

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No.2 seed Ali Farag clinched a hat-trick of Egyptians in the semi-finals by overcoming Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly, who gamely battled through the encounter despite a suspected hamstring injury.

Farag won a close opening game 11-9 but Cuskelly adopted an attacking strategy to win the second on a tiebreak, slotting some impressive winners in the process.

He requested an injury break between games and gamely returned to the court but was unable to contain the spree of winners flowing from Farag’s racket.

Ali dedicated his victory to his wife, Nour El Tayeb, who is celebrating her 25th birthday today.

He said: “I am happy but I can’t say I’m very happy because I’m sad for Ryan. It’s never the way you want to win. The first game was very high quality squash, it was a flip of a coin and I won it.

“It was a shame to see him limping because of his hamstring and you can see how great of a player he is because he almost beat me on one leg.

“I think it’s too early to form an opinion [on the best of three], there are pros and cons to everything in life and I think we need to keep trialling it. Maybe not in many tournaments but maybe in a couple of tournaments and see how it goes.

“If it goes well then let it be, if not then we can fall back on the best of five but we can always look at things to evolve the game.

“It’s my wife’s birthday in a few minutes and I’m sorry for the heart attack I gave her for a gift. Hopefully when I go back we can celebrate together.”

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Tarek Momen completed the Egyptian quartet in the semi-finals with a match that illustrated squash’s physical brutality.

James Willstrop began the match at a blistering pace, one that he was unable to maintain as Momen gained momentum. Momen took the first game 11-5 but Willstrop played more controlled squash to win the second 11-9, weathering some fierce rallies as Momen forced him to bend, twist and turn all over the court to keep the ball in play. 

Willstrop was clearly breathing heavily throughout the break and struggled to make any impact on the third game as Momen quickly built a 5-0 lead. Willstrop, however, possesses a stubborn streak and began to work his way back into the match with some superb squash. 

From 3-7 down, Willstrop pulled back to 7-7 but Momen continued to mix tight, controlled drives with drops and boasts that dragged Willstrop’s tired, reluctant body to the front of the court.

Willstrop continued to resist as best he could, but the effort took its toll as Momen closed out the match 11-7 to clinch a semi-final berth against No.2 seed Farag.

Momen said: “I have a lot of respect for James, I’ve played him many times and he used to beat me easily.

“I’m just happy that I’m at a level now where I’m competing with him and it’s unbelievable. He’s a great fighter and has such good racket skills and he kept pushing until the end.
“I think I started really well today and I played well the whole match, I just tinned a bit too much at some times. Maybe it was due to the pressure he was applying on me.
“Overall, I’m happy with the match, it was a good battle and I’m happy I overcame the mental battle in the third.
“It’s a good percentage [of Egyptians in the top 10] but there are some players coming up from other countries and I’m expecting them to make it into the top 10. It’s going to be very hard for the Egyptians to capture all 10 spots.
“It would be better for the sport to have some variety. I’m supporting every Egyptian player but I’m not a big fan of the idea of having 10 Egyptian players [in the top 10].
“I hope everyone raises the bar and we’ll have a good competition from all over the world.”

PSA M100 $100,000 Men’s 15th Canary Wharf Classic 2018, East Wintergarden, London, England.

Quarter-finals:
[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [5] Simon Rösner (GER) 11-9, 11-4 (28m)
[3] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY) beat [8] Daryl Selby (ENG) 11-3, 8-11, 11-9 (51m)
[4] Tarek Momen (EGY) beat [6] James Willstrop (ENG) 11-5, 9-11, 11-7 (46m)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) beat [7] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 11-9, 10-12, 11-4 (47m)

Semi-Finals: 
[1] Mohamed Elshorbagy (EGY) v [3] Marwan Elshorbagy (EGY)
[2] Ali Farag (EGY) v [4] Tarek Momen (EGY)

Pictures by STEVE LINE (www.squashpics.com) and PATRICK LAUSON (www.patricklausonphotography.com)

 

Posted on March 7, 2018

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About The Author

Alan Thatcher

Lifelong sports journalist and squash lover. Event promoter, coach, author, voice artist. Founder of World Squash Day.

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